Accidents on roads targeted by speed cameras have more than tripled over the last three years.
When cameras were first introduced in Hartlepool in 2000 the number of injury collisions on targeted roads plummeted from an annual average of 36 to just seven.
But in 2001 the actual number of accidents climbed to 17, then 19 the following year and 23 last year.
And the rise comes as the number of accidents on the town's roads has risen by only three per cent in the last three years.
Road safety chiefs today said the average number of accidents on speed camera roads in Hartlepool over the last four years was 16 - a 56 per cent reduction on the average figure before cameras were introduced.
But they admitted the number of accidents on Hartlepool roads was increasing.
Mick Bennett, public relations manager for the Cleveland Safety Camera Partnership, said : "We are pleased with the results which show that injury collisions are at a level half of that before we started using cameras and proud of what we have helped to achieve.
"However, there is no room for complacency, as despite the excellent results, the overall number of crashes is starting to creep back up.
"The majority of these crashes have nothing to do with the speed of the traffic, but drivers just not concentrating on their driving.
"Collisions are occurring at or near junctions as drivers fail to look properly before pulling out, or fail to see motorcyclists and pedal cyclists, or fail to judge other vehicles' speeds."
Mr Bennett said research showed that speed was a factor in about one in three crashes.
He added: "We have never claimed that the use of cameras is the answer to all collisions which occur.
"We can only really affect those crashes that are speed related.
Mr Bennett added that injury accidents were also caused by factors such as drink and drugs, failure to wear a seat-belt, inappropriate use of mobile phones, tailgating, lane hogging, and failure to indicate at junctions or roundabouts.
Nigel Humphries, a spokesman for the Association of British Drivers, said: "Speed cameras do not work. It may well be that they stop some complete nutter doing 90mph in one particular place but he will only go and do something equally crazy somewhere else.
"Meanwhile 90 per cent of the people they nick have nothing to do with accidents on roads."
Mr Humphries claimed the cameras actually hurt road safety by forcing drivers to concentrate on watching their speed rather than looking out for hazards such as a child running into the street.
He added: "I think speed cameras are almost completely irrelevant to road safety.".......
25 August 2004